A very interesting study at Hebrew University found that the brain inflates numbers under some circumstances. University psychologists called this a “diversity illusion”.
Israelis and American students were asked to assess the size of minorities—Arabs and African Americans—among them. In both cases, people believed there were far more people from the minority than there actually were.
Researchers concluded that this is due to the mind’s tendency to focus on and amplify that which is out of the ordinary.
In one experiment Jewish students estimated the percentage of Arabs in the student body at 31% and Arab students said, 35%. Only 12% of students were Arab.
A similar experiment with American participants about the number of African American faces in a grid of 100 photographs yielded similar results—40% against 25%.
To be sure they ran the tests again and again, same results. I ran this test at home with a European house guest—exactly the same result.
Psychologists concluded that such overestimation of minority numbers, results from innate intolerance.
Most reasonable people want to live in an equitable society. By and large most of them find themselves in the centre of a larger political equation. And that political equation includes the participation of those who are not a part of the majority of voters.
While people in the minority generally get a pretty good understanding of the majority, it is good civics, that the majority should get a better understanding of the people among us who are of a different persuasion.
The active verb in persuasion is to persuade. There are many forms of persuasion—from coaxing to coercion. And when gentle persuasion turns into political propaganda and jingoist rhetoric, the thinking of a good section of the polity is influenced enough to swing from the middle towards any one extreme. And soon people arrive at all manners of ugly consensus and illogical conclusions.
My guest today is Ghazala Wahab the author of a news-making book, Born A Muslim.
Reading some of the reviews of her book, I got the impression that many reviewers fell to assuming that Ghazala wrote her book to protest the growing sentiment being manufactured against the muslim minority. The interviews that I read or heard, seem to approach their subject with a premeditated woke-ness.
To be candid, I first approached the book the same way. I thought it would seek to educate non-muslims about the religion and practices of Islam with the underlying appeal for a more compassionate appreciation of an increasingly marginalized people. But reading the book set me straight.
Ghazala’s book takes the argument inwards…a muslim speaking to fellow muslims introspectively. It is written without any of the sentimental—and at times, even plaintive—hooks that so easily and so often define the texts of marginalized or dispossessed people.
And to add to that Ghazala is Editor of Force India, a magazine about national security, principally defence matters. And she co-authored the book, Dragon On Our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power.
After I read Born A Muslim, I couldn’t wait to speak to the author. So here she is.
ABOUT GHAZALA WAHAB
A journalist since 1994, Ghazala has authored Born a Muslim: Some Truths About Islam in India and co-authored Dragon on our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power with Pravin Sawhney, with whom she founded FORCE magazine.
Buy Born A Muslim here: https://amzn.to/3H1L92o
WHAT'S THAT WORD?! - COAXING
Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the segment "What's That Word?", where they discuss the medieval origins of the word.
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